Race Day Tips From Running Coach Shaun Dixon

Race Day Tips
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“If it’s your first race then all you need to focus on is getting to the finish line and enjoying the experience, whatever the distance,” says elite runner and coach Shaun Dixon (letsgetrunning.co.uk). “Just by finishing the race you’re guaranteed to get a new personal best! That said, most people start a race with a target time in mind, and it’s good to give yourself a realistic goal to hit.”

“You’ll have done the hard training over many months, especially if your event is a half or full marathon or an ultra, but you need to execute your race-day pacing and nutrition strategy perfectly – that’s the key to your best-ever race,” says Dixon. Here’s his advice on shaving seconds – or even minutes – from your PB.

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If this is your first race at this distance, your best bet for the fastest time possible is to try to run at a consistent pace from starting gun to finishing line. “Starting too fast – which is all too tempting when you’re feeling excited and nervous thanks to the adrenaline buzz – will make the second half of the race much harder because you’ve burned up too much energy early on,” says Dixon. “And starting too slow means you’ll have to work harder in the latter stages of the race to make up the time. For getting a new PB, nothing beats running each mile or kilometre consistently.”

Dixon’s own tactic when trying to win or set new fastest times in longer races is to “do nothing” for the first half to two-thirds of the course. “I run my own race, establish a good rhythm and ignore any of the racing going on around me,” he says. “That way, I have plenty left in the tank towards the end of the race when others start to falter, so I can make up some good time and places by running a stronger finish.”

If you’re still in doubt about your best strategy on race day, Dixon adds, “Consistent and comfortable is the way to go – not only to get the best time possible, but also so that you enjoy more of the race, and not just crossing the finish line.”


Knowing what you want and need to consume during your race isn’t something you finalise on the morning of the race. Indeed, trying different nutritional approaches during your training to find the best strategy is almost as important as the running itself.

For races of less than 10km or under an hour in length, Dixon doesn’t think it’s necessary to take on calories during the event. For half marathons or longer races, though, you may need some to keep your muscles fuelled.

“Exactly what form of calories works best for you is something you need to establish early on during your longer training runs,” says Dixon. “Some people prefer energy drinks to energy gels, others like jelly babies. I have an energy gel every 45 to 60 minutes when racing. The key is to find the foods or drinks that you can stomach during a race to keep you energised. You don’t want to experiment with something new in a race in case it makes you queasy or upsets your stomach. Find your favourite fuel early on, then stick to it!”

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